31 March 2011

Censorship

In the past, I have - on, I think three occasions - deleted comments which I considered offensive. Today I have deleted a comment which simply invited readers to transfer to the writer's own blog in order to get the Real McCoy on something. If the writer concerned wishes to give his substantive reasons for disagreeing with me and is prepared to write it on the thread of my blog, I assure him that (unless he writes in a gratuitously offensive way) I will not delete his views. But, if I choose not to let him use my blog to advertise his own, that's my business.

What's Mass for?

I was reading some time ago an article in an American Orthodox periodical about whether the Eucharistic Prayer should be audible or silent. It is sometimes illuminating to see how our Western scene looks from the other side of the Eastern wall. Frankly ... I hate to interfere in the religion of others, but I feel strongly about this ... in my view, Byzantine Christians should stick to their traditions.

In the West, the EP has been audible in the C of E since 1559 and in most of the rest of the West since the 1970s. The Orthodox writer drew attention to listener fatigue; among RCs, he said, the audibility of the EP has led to an almost universal preference for the shortest EP (and it is indeed very short). In the C of E, he thought, the EP is commonly regarded by the laity as an irrelevant clerically-intruded piece of boredom which merely delays the all-important act of Communion.

I think he's absolutely right. And, looking at our Catholic Anglican tradition, I suspect that one reason for it is this: in our context it has seemed of crucial importance to avoid sacrilege by making our people understand that the Eucharistic elements truly are the Lord's Body and Blood. Especially since the restoration of mass communion, we have constantly (and probably rightly) postponed everything else to this agenda. But the centrality of Sacrifice, in the last resort, is more important than the worship or reception of the Sacramental Christ. I hesitate to blunder carelessly and over-simplistically around in so great a mystery; it is certainly true that both ....and is more important than either ... or. But, to be simple and crude, the Eucharist is firstly a sacrifice; only when we have said this do we go on to say that it is (we can't get away from the terminology of our Jewish roots here) a communion sacrifice. In the last resort, the Lord's Body and Blood are present substantialiter et realiter upon our altars primarily to be the propitiatory sacrifice which (since the first Holy Week) replaces the the Temple cult; secondarily, to be received so that Christ's Body and Blood can (Dr Pusey's banned sermon citing a great crop of Eastern Fathers is good on this:) be commingled with ours; thirdly, to be adored. Look at it diachronically: most Christians in most Chrisian centuries have attended Mass without communicating. S Pius X's great campaign for Frequent Communion does not need to be denigrated but it is not simpliciter the whole Christian tradition.

Back to the EP. If it is to be audible, its text should make very clear its sacrificial nature, and clergy-talk ('Today we are offering this Holy Sacrice especially for', for example) and sermons should frequently emphasise this. Or it can be done done silently; catechesis will have no trouble explaining that it is silent because it effects the great act of consecration and sacrifice; silent becuse it effects this without essentially needing lay participation or even understanding; silent because the priest is in the holiest possible commerce with God rather than saying something for the interest, diversion, or even edification of the people.

If it can't be said inaudibly, the next best thing is that it should be said very quietly. Yes, I know the OF rubrics specify an audible voice. But they do not say that the priest should bellow nor that there should be electronic amplification. If it is important that the people should hear the prayer, well, any schoolmaster knows that the best way of securing dead silence in a classroom is by speaking very quietly.
Continues.

MANIPLES: the Finer Points

Since maniples are in the news again, I recycle this post from last July. I fail to understand why some fairly traditional clergy regard the maniple with abhorrence, but use burses and veils. Sadly, at the Anglican Shrine in Walsingham, maniples, burses and veils were all - I have been assured in the Sacristy - destroyed in the 1960s.
Moi, I am a pedant. I always take my maniple off before saying the Leonine Prayers at the foot of the Altar. According to O'Connell, this is the strictly logical thing to do ... but it is, he says, commonly ignored.

It is the strictly logical thing to do because only the maniple is worn only during Mass. The Chasuble might sometimes be worn in extra-liturgical ceremonies ... but never* the maniple. I remember that when Paul VI made the maniple optional, there was a most irate article in one of the old-style Anglican Papalist periodicals which still then survived ... it might have been the dear old Pilot ... in which some lovely ancient priest pointed out that, since the maniple is the vestment which par excellence is worn during Mass, the new rule meant, in fact, that some clergy would now be saying Mass unvested.

One of the last of the old generation of Anglican Papalist priests, Fr Clive Beresford, followed such rules to the letter. Back in the early 1960s, in churches where the 'Western Rite' was followed, it was quite common, especially on Sundays, for some little bits of Cranmer to pop their heads above the parapet. For example, after the Secret, Dr Cranmer's Prayer for the Church Militant might be interpolated; after the Postcommunion, his Prayer of Thanksgiving After Communion. When pastoral necessity compelled Fr Beresford to incorporate these dodgy additamenta, he always took his maniple off before doing so.

We Anglican Catholics are a very principled people.

________________________________________________________________

*Except, Rubricarius tells me, in those smaller churches which have the Palm Sunday Blessing of Palms without Deacon or Subdeacon; but then, that ceremony is really a missa sicca, isn't it?

30 March 2011

More on the Ukrainians

Continues.
By the kindess of a friend, I regularly read the newsletter of an American church of the Ukrainian diaspora. And what constantly strikes me is the determination of the Ukrainian Church to maintain and, if necessary, to restore, its own authentically Byzantine traditions; and to emphasise to its people that they are not 'Roman' Catholics. Reading between the lines, I suspect that there is even some resistance to this among some of their laity; that delatinisation legislation stimulates the angry question "Why are we being turned into Orthodox?"

And I have just spotted - in the March 20 newsletter - that the Second Sunday of Great Lent is also the Feast of "St Gregory Palamas" ... reminding me of a question that I raised in posts a little while ago. S Gregory was a great fourteenth century Archbishop of Thessalonica whose teaching, mediated to him from the earlier Greek Fathers through S Symeon the New Theologian, claimed to describe and to justify the teaching and ascetical practises of Athonite monasticism (he was also very explicit about our Lady as Mediatrix of All Graces, but that's another question). For a long time, S Gregory was attacked as a heretic by Latin theologians; and I think I am right in saying that he has never popped up in the Martyrologium Romanum! The fact that large Churches in full Peace and Communion with the Holy See (the Ukrainians and the Melkites) commemorate him liturgically on a Sunday in Lent must have ecclesial significance for all the particular churches in Peace and Communion with Rome, Latin as well as Oriental.

I see these Byzantine communities as valuable reminders that the Catholic Church is more than just the Latin Church; and that the "Eastern Rites" (a horrid phrase) are not simply 'ordinary' or 'mainstream' Catholics who are graciously permitted, for reasons of ancestral fetich, to dress up in funny clothes (the other day, in the library of Allen Hall, I browsed through the Bullarium of Benedict XIV, my second most favourite pope, rereading his enactments preserving the rights of the Patriarch of Antioch and of the Melkite tradition against disdainful and illiterate Latins). I am currently trying to get out of the habit of criticising the Church of England; but I can't resist the temptation to point out the the Churches who are at one with the See of Rome contain within them an infinitely greater variety of (encouraged) diversity than you could ever find within Anglicanism. Two lungs, indeed. Or more.

___________________________________________________________________

By the way ... the video from the Ukraine suggests that the solita oscula are still very much alive and kicking among Byzantines!



29 March 2011

Whispers in the Loggia ...

... gives a wonderful opportunity of savouring the enthronement of the new Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Church. Since my Ukrainian is frail, I will simply have to fall back on Eis polla ete, Despota.

As I do so, I express my hope that valued Orthodox friends will not be too cross with me. I do know that things are not all as simple as the "Patriarchate Now" lobby believe. And, while the new Apostolic Nuncio to this country may have expressed himself loosely, I do rather sympathise with what I take to be be his underlying motive (in not encouraging that young Orthodox man to become a Catholic): a determination not to weaken the Patriarchate of Moskow and of All the Russias. Given the doctrine expressed by Cardinal Ratzinger in Communionis notio (para 17) and Dominus Iesus (para 17 again!) about the Orthodox Churches as "True*- but wounded - Particular Churches", I do wonder whether there is the same absolute necessity for individuals within those "true particular churches" to make individual submission as there is in ecclesial contexts where a valid episcopate and sacramental life cannot be discerned; since, by belonging to a "true particular church", one does, surely, belong to the Catholic Church. I speak humbly and very much subject to correction.
More on the Ukrainians.

________________________________________________________________

*As I understand it, the advance made in these two CDF documents over the words of the conciliar decree Unitatis redintegratio is the unambiguous - and insistent - addition by the CDF of the adjective "True". "Integralists" who might regard the teaching of Vatican II and of the CDF in this matter as yet another example of post-conciliar Vatican "Apostasy" should, as the Transalpine Redemptorist blog neatly and extensively demonstrated a few months ago, pay rather closer attention to the legislation and praxis of Roman Pontiffs well before period of Vatican II: ex.gr., to the example of S Pius X with regard to Russia.

28 March 2011

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2)

In the first half of this piece, I pointed out that in declaring the CCC the doctrinal standard of Ordinariates, the Sovereign Pontiff did not intend to impose either a heavier or a lighter burden of doctrinal belief upon members of Ordinariates than upon other Catholics. I now go on to enquire what exactly the doctrinal standing of CCC is.

The highest form of legislation in the Roman Magisterium is an Apostolic Constitution. On October 11, 1992, Pope John Paul II wrote about the genesis of the CCC, and what its purpose was seen to be (Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum). On August 15, 1997, promulgating the Editio typica of the CCC, he repeated the crucial terminology of that Constitution in his Apostolic Letter Laetamur magnopere.

According to John Paul's narrative, the Synod of Bishops which met in early 1985 expressed a desire for a "Catechism or compendium of the whole of Catholic teaching, both of Faith and of Morals". It was to be a "point of reference" for catechisms or compendia which might be written in different regions. The pope says he adopted this intent ("Nostrum reddidimus hoc propositum"). He goes on to desribe the CCC as a "reference text" (this is is how the English translation renders the phrase "comparationis textum") for "catechesis renewed by the living founts of Faith". He goes on to describe it as an "expositio" of the faith of the Church and of Catholic doctrine, and describes it as a firm rule ("regulam") for teaching the Faith, and therefore a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion. In Laetamur magnopere he says that the catechetical industry ("catechetica institutio") will find "an absolutely safe way for demonstrating the Christian message with renewed fervour ... from this document each master of catechesis will find a solid help by which he will be able, within the local Church, to communicate the single and eternal deposit of the Faith".

It is important to notice what the pope does not say. He does not say that new dogmatic standards are being imposed either on the Universal Church or on local Churches. There is no suggestion that any alteration is being made in the structure of domatic belief or in the degree of assent with which anything is to be accepted. What he does say is that the Tradition, as it currently stands, is being given a convenient summary and exposition so that those whose duty it is to teach that Faith will have a most valuable resource.

Communities, such as Anglicanism, which have existed for centuries without an effective magisterium will obviously be much empowered by having a clear account in one volume of what the Magisterium currently teaches. CCC, admittedly, is superficially in line with the continental instinct for all-embracing codes and much less like our Common Law tradition of a sackful of statutes, statutory instruments, European regulations, commentaries, case law, observations obiter, analogies drawn from decisions within other Common Law jurisdictions, and unwritten assumptions. But the latter style of things does require professionals who can reconcile and make sense of a mass of varied data. I suspect that many a parish priest will be feel empowered by having so much of the work done for him. That is the strength of the CCC.

But I do have an uneasiness about a possible misunderstanding of the status of the CCC among members of Ordinariates. The intelligent laywoman, layman, parish priest, as he/she works through it, is bound to come upon passages she/he finds not totally convincing ... pieces of logic which appear not quite to follow ... illustrations which he/she finds inept. The risk is that she/he might wrongly assume that every sentence in CCC is endowed with the same demand upon our assent, and might thus become discouraged at finding sections where assent is problematic. (It is helpful, in this respect, to read the intelligent and nuanced CDF commentary (1998) on Ad tuendam fidem, dealing as it does with the different levels and types of assent.) Put crudely, there are some things in CCC - such as, for example, the Doctrine of the Trinity and the Doctrine that the Lord's Body and Blood are truly and substantially present in the Eucharist - which you are supposed to commit yourself entirely to with complete faith. On the other hand, there are things which are part of the Church's Tradition which any sensible Christian will just accept without bother, but which do not demand the assent of Divine Faith. If, after much prayer and infinite study, you were to come to the conclusion that the matter demanded a bit of a rethink, you would be entitled to your view, but you should still - as a member of the club - treat the established formulation with religious respect and not go around fomenting mayhem.

And we all need to remember that even ex cathedra pronouncements of the Roman Pontiff or similarly binding decrees of dogmatic councils have limitations as far as assent is concerned. We are not obliged to believe that the dogma has been expressed in the best possible way; simply that the definition was preserved from positive error. We are not required to accept or like or find plausible the arguments which are offered in support of the defined dogma. Above all, nobody insists that, as a matter of divine faith, we must agree that it was opportune to define this dogma at this time or in this way or, indeed, at all. It is most certainly decent, in all these matters, to treat the judgements of those whom the Holy Spirit has set over us with respect, obsequium, and to accept (unless we have very strong grounds for hesitation) that they know better than we do. But as far as the assent of divine faith is concerned, it is only the words of a formal definition which oblige.

What is true of ex cathedra pronouncements is all the more true of areas in which there has never been such a conciliar or papal declaration. A random example: the teaching in CCC about the Just War tradition. I have no criticism at all of this; I happen to subscribe with enthusiasm to this teaching. Back in the 1960s, as a 'bright' young priest, I was asked to write an article about it; I slanted my exposition in such a way as to make clear its bearing on the 'doctrine of nuclear deterrence'; and the editor deemed my piece too contentious to publish. But it is clear to me that this magnificent tradition does not make the same unconditional claim upon the ex animo assent of each one of the faithful as, for example, does the Doctrine of the Hypostatic Union. The section on prayer*, moreover, which comes at the end of the Catechism, is an afterthought which, I imagine, most Christians will find helpful. But it is not presented to us as a piece to every sentence of which unconditional assent is demanded.

As both clergy and laity use the Catechism, it is, I think, very important for them to remember that not everything in it is proposed for assent in the same sort of way. If you do find something in it which you don't like, then, as Corporal Jones used to advise, Don't panic. _________________________________________________________

*
A Fr Jean Corbon, a Dominican of Oriental rite, dashed it off in Beirut as the bombs thumped down around him during the Lebanese civil war.

27 March 2011

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1)

The Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus says the the CCC will be the doctrinal standard of the Ordinariates. Naturally, therefore, it is being used in the 'formation' of Ordinariate clergy. I know of no other grouping within the Roman Unity which, apparently, has its own doctrinal standard; not even the 'uniate' Churches with their sense of a distinct theological - as well as liturgical - inheritance. Everybody else is expected to adhere to the doctrine of the Magisterium, in accordance with the the degree of solemnity with which a particular matter has been proposed. For example, decrees of doctrinal Ecumenical Councils and ex cathedra pronouncements of the Roman Pontiff are to accepted as a matter of divine faith; other pronouncements by the teaching organs of the Catholic Church are to be given lesser degrees of assent or 'religious respect', according to their respective status.

I contend that the status given to CCC in Anglicanorum coetibus is not in fact different from the status it has been declared to have in all the other particular churches in full communion with the See of Peter. In other words, I do not think that it imposes extra dogmas upon Anglicans which are not imposed upon others; and I do not think that it imposes a lighter obligation of dogma upon Anglicans than upon others. There are things in CCC which are proposed as infallible teaching to be received with divine faith; but they are not thus imposed by the authority of CCC itself. I have in mind, to give obvious and random examples, the Nicene Creed and the decrees regarding the Sacraments at Trent and the dogma of the Assumption. These are to be received as infallible because of the authority of the organ which first imposed them, not because of the authority of their repetition in CCC. Other things in CCC lack the authority of an Ecumenical Council or a Roman Pontiff speaking ex cathedra; these are to be accorded the same respect as they enjoyed anyway and already by virtue of their standing, whatever it was, in the Church's Magisterial teaching ... which may be lesser. In other words, not everything in CCC is proposed with the same force and authority. Cardinal Ratzinger himself wrote "The individual doctrines which the Catechism presents receive no other weight than that which they already possess".

26 March 2011

Next Sunday

The ancient Collect for Lent III, with bold for the padding which Cranmer added to the Latin original:

We beseech thee, almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants: and stretch forth the right hand of thy majesty to be our defence against all our enemies.

Like last Sunday's collect, this comes from the Missal which Pope Hadrian sent to Charlemagne at the emperor's request; whose wish it was to reform the worship of the Empire by replacing the boisterous Merovingian Latinity (Dix's phrase) of the 'Gallican' Rites with the elegant 'urban' Latin of the Papal rite. This was a decisive point in the journey of the Roman Rite from being the local rite of the City to being the common rite of nearly all the West.

It had better be admitted that many of these collects, marked by the disorders of the Roman Empire's last period, have, like the chants of the old rite, an embarassing relevance to our own day. Many of them deploy and link three themes: we are being mightily oppressed by our enemies; we deserve these afflictions; and we perform such duties as prayer and fasting that God may grant us the protection which we do not deserve. A millennium and a half later, our culture, too, has 'enemies' within and without: within, societal collapse and a community which seems often to be in terminal disorder; without, the threat of 'Islamic Extremism'. Do we accept that we (collectively) have deserved these things; do we trust to God alone and offer our prayers and abstinence as humble supplications for deliverance? Yet the old postcommunion prayer asks with almost naive succinctness that we may delivered from reatus (guilt) and pericula (perils) - as if these two go hand in hand, like a horse and carriage.

And it is worth looking at the readings which the preconciliar Missal shares with Cranmer's Prayer Book. Ephesians 5:1ff repeats the blunt message that fornication, covetousness, idolatry are the reasons why the Wrath of God has come upon the children of disobedience. Luke 11:14ff finds the Lord observing that a society which has once possessed the Faith (had its demons cast out) and then lost it is, at risk of having seven times as many demons returning to occupy it; the only solution is follow our Lady in humblest obedience to the word of God.

This is not the sort of way Christians tend to think nowadays; simply to suggest it is to run the risk of being attacked for claiming that God whacked the Twin Towers because the people inside were sinners. But this old Mass Proper sticks its neck out and asks us to confront the possibility that our society is under attack because of the internal dynamic of it own corruption.

25 March 2011

Fr Zed reminds us ...

... to say a prayer for the repose of the soul of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

I do not think that every choice he made was the right one ... particularly his unwillingness at a crucial moment to trust Cardinal Ratzinger. But he tried to discern and to follow God's will for him as best he could. I doubt whether the Benedictine Restoration would be where it is now without the witness of Marcel Lefebvre. Cuius animae propitietur Deus.

Allen Hall

Another splendid day at Cardinal Allen's Foundation, now long departed from Douay and lodged on the site of S Thomas More's house in Chelsea. Allen Hall is well equipped with portraits recalling its distinguished past; upon seeing them, my undisciplined memory jumped to a House in County Kerry, Derrynane, ancestral residence of Daniel O'Connell the Liberator. There the portraits of bewhiskered old gents in military uniforms look much like those you would expect to find in any English stately home ... until you realise that their uniforms all betoken the French or Austrian service. On the walls of Derrynane and Allen Hall, one sees, in effect, the Alternative History of these islands. I once, too, got nattering with a woman who was cataloguing the Library in a Scottish Jacobite house called Traquair; she had been surprised by the fact that the books those Scottish Catholics were reading, around the time they went Out to support the Prince Regent in the affair of 1745, tempore Jacobi VIII*, showed them to be more in the mainstream of continental European culture than were the Whig oligarchs and the Hannover rats. Does the Allen Hall library retain any books from its Douay period?

Incidentally, I wonder whether Cardinal Allen's Alma Mater in Oxford, Oriel College, now sports a portrait of its distinguished alumnus on its walls. The painting of him which greets one in Chelsea suggests a man with whom it would be unwise to tangle ... after all, he was a Proctor of this University as well as being a sort of ecclesiastical equivalent of Ian Fleming's 'M'.

We had a most gracious address from the Rector, Mgr Mark O'Toole (one of the Co Wicklow O'Tooles?), in which he negotiated with immense intelligence and sensitivity the question of our status ... the man is clearly no fool. He then assured us that the dark decades when seminaries were less than totally in tune with Catholic Tradition were now just about over. This reassured many of us a great deal; I had dreaded, after the sour decades in the Church of England, having again to steel myself to argue and to fight for the Faith. I doubt if there will be any need for that. Fr Mark is clearly One Of Us.

The seminarians are both very well-informed and immensely friendly; I think it is they, poor things, who do the washing up after we have wolfed down the lunch (which is better than any institutional food I have ever encountered except, just possibly, in the SCR at Christ Church) ... so I can't think of any reason, apart from the pure Grace of God, why they should be so chummy. I wonder how we can recompense them for this contribution to our bellies and our 'Formation', all the more kind for being so banausic. Is there a Junior Common Room Wine Fund?

One suggestion will I make. Fr Mark does a deft line in humorous anecdotes; my instinct is that they may be Irish (call me a sceptic if you like, but the one about the aged peasant with the twelve chickens who lived the other side of the mountain ... with its punch-line "Not the whole bl**dy bucket" ... did not seem to me to carry the authentic markers of a sitz im leben within the English Home Counties). So why does he not deliver them in a reassuringly West-of-Ireland accent? That would make me feel really at home. I bet he could do it if he tried.

____________________________________________________________________

*I was a tiny bit surprised not to see any Jacobite pictures in Allen Hall, not even the weeniest engraving of the Cardinal King. Perhaps I missed them ... or perhaps ...

24 March 2011

The Cult of the Blessed Sacrament (3)

Continued from the previous two posts.
The Blessed Sacrament became a focus for devotion, not surprisingly, around the same time as personal devotion to Jesus became common; the revolution by which public liturgical prayer in the Latin Church continued, in the classical formulae, to be to the Father through the Son, but was accompanied by a vivid devotion of the individual directly to the Son. This is also the age in which the Elevation of the Host began its rise to the status it possessed at the end of the middle ages as the principal focus of lay devotion. And this was the age when fashionable cosmopolitan intellectuals came to view with some disdain a number of features in the inherited cult of relics. The wealthy Avignon nominee to the See of Exeter in the 1320s, my hero John Grandisson, appears to have suppressed there a crude popular hymn which was sung annually at the Exeter Procession of Relics. And in the vast lists of benefactions which he made to his Cathedral and to his collegiate foundation at Ottery and to the beneficiaries of his will, I have not found one single mention of even one single relic. But he possessed and donated monstrances of fabulous wealth and beauty; ordered that country parsons should carry the Sacrament to the sick with proper dignity and not just carry It any old how. I fancy that his instinct was: relics are all very well, but the Sacrament is the living Body of our Maker and Redeemer.

Grandisson was the protege of the pope to whom, under God, we owe the Feast of Corpus Christi and the immense devotional riches, for Latin Christians, of the Cultus of the Blessed Sacrament. The bull Transiturus of 1264 had not, as far as can be discerned, been followed* even in the papal chapel. But Transiturus was repromulgated probably* at the council Vienne in 1311 and then incorporated in the collection of decretals called the Clementines which was changed and corrected by Pope John XXII. He, in 1317, sent it to the universal Latin hierarchy, and set an example himself by instituting Corpus Christi processions (which had not in fact been not envisaged in Transiturus). His initiative spread like wildfire. Nobody quite knew how to do the new things; in 1320 a Council at Sens gave up the attempt to legislate for appropriate ceremonial and left the arrangement of the "apparently divinely inspired innovation" to the devotion of clergy and laity.

It was clearly a devotional initiative whose day had come. We Latins can be immensely proud that it was through us that the Lord showed the fulness of this wonderful treasure.
_______________________________________________________________

* In those days before printing, there is nothing very remarkable about a papal liturgical initiative directed at the Universal Church being pretty well universally ignored. Nor - although this will surprise and disquiet superconciliarists of all sorts - is there anything strange in the fact that we are far from sure exactly what happened at several ecumenical councils, including Vienne. Ecumenical Councils ... but I've been all through that subject recently. And this is not the first time I have had occasion to point out the crucial significance of printing in the history of Liturgy and - indeed - Theology.

23 March 2011

The Cult of the Blessed Sacrament (2)

Continues:
Bishop, however, exaggerates when he talks about the cult of the Blessed Sacrament as absent through the whole middle ages. The thirteenth century shows a dawning awareness of something more profound. A 1260 ordinarium from Zurich finds it necessary to explain that it is "contrary to reason ... altogether absurd" that "the Eucharist, which is the true living Body of Christ, should represent his dead Body". In the same century a conventual ordinal preserved in Dublin ordered the Sacrament to be "honourably reserved for the use of the sick", but less than a century later another hand feels it necessary to add "and for the devotion of the choir".

There is a red herring to be disposed of here. Dix, engaged in tweaking the tails of Anglican bishops who attempted to issue 'regulations' banning Corpus Chisti processions, loved to point out that the first records of Processions of the Blessed Sacrament were in Palm Sunday processions at Canterbury. Fair enough; the bishops of Dix's day were for the most part ignorant bigots. Indeed ... but let's not venture down that digression. But Dix is perpetrating, in my view, a genre confusion. On Palm Sunday, Christians in many parts of the Latin West desired to actualise ritually the Lord's Entry into the Holy City. They used, sometimes, a wooden statue of the Lord on a donkey; or the Book of the Gospels; or ... sometimes, the Sacrament. The genre is Drama and so the question is: We are doing a dramatic representation of a historical event, the Lord's Entry into Jerusalem: therefore how do we symbolise the Figure of Jesus? But the genre of the Corpus Christi Procession is not Drama but Adoration: we possess the true body of the living Christ: therefore how should we worship Him?

Once you stop thinking of the Sacrament Reserved as the real but dead Body of Christ which the Faithful need to receive when sick or dying, and begin to see it as the living Body of the living Christ, you will see it not as a supremely potent but dead relic but as the locus for a direct, lived, relationship between believer and Lord. We see this transition in the development of some of the very rare, early, processions of the Host before the end of the thirteenth century. The host was processed together with the other most potent relics of the Church concerned. But such practices soon became much less common, and eventually disappeared.

And this revolution led to a change in the vessels used for Reservation. No longer were they made of ivory, but of precious metals. No longer were they designed to represent the Sepulchre at Jerusalem. Above all, no longer was the Sacrament to be reserved in the same vessel as the Holy Oils*.
Continues.

__________________________________________________________

*In the first millennium - remarkably, to our minds - the vessel blessed to be a container for the Sacrament was often called the Chrismale!

22 March 2011

Temps perdus

A spring stroll through Addison's Walk and the Fellows' Garden at Magdalen ... the fritillaries are starting to appear! ... to have a look at the lovely Mosque built in their back garden. It is still unfinished, so, lamentably, not yet is the Cry of the Muezzin heard over the water meadows of the Cherwell. Then along Mesopotamia to the forelorn, desecrated, site of Parsons' Pleasure ... memories, here, of Warden Bowra and those far-off days when undergraduates made endless jokes about Wadhamy (nowadays, of course, the Statutes have been amended so that women undergraduates can commit Wadhamy too).

The site of the Pleasure offers not even an echo of the way it was in the golden heyday of S Stephen's House, when Canon Couratin, so the megale paradosis claims, used to interview prospective seminarians there (not that I have ever met a man who actually was so interviewed). You can't imagine Canon Ward, can you, doing his interviews in that sort of way; though, mind you, if he did, I'm sure he would be wearing the most amazingly dapper sun hat. But now the fences and the divesting cubicles have been flattened and the Curators of the University Parks, a degenerate body of men, have added insult to injury by putting up notices saying NO SWIMMING AND NO DIVING.

So, round the Duck Pond (where we used in the summer to make our morning meditations between Mattins and Mass) and out to Bevington Road, past the house once occupied by Pam's two tutors, the terrifyingly erudite Margaret Hubbard and the somewhat ambiguous Iris Murdoch (Pam and I first met on the stairs there while waiting for a Homer Seminar). St Anne's, once the repository of Oxford's most brilliant and beautiful women undergraduates, is now polluted by hoards of adolescent youths who, in their horrible male way, have renamed it Stans.

Ubi illa vetusta Oxonia? Non sumus quales eramus, as Fr Zed would undoubtedly say.

21 March 2011

Exchanges with a correspondent remind me ...

... of an episode when I still taught GCSE. A paper asked the question "In Christian worship, what symbolises Christ?" My candidates, of course, wrote "The Altar", but the correct answer was deemed to be "Bread".

Next time round, there was a picture of an Anglican clergyman standing at an Eagle lectern, with the question "Name the garment he is wearing". My candidates had not been taught much about Anglican Choir Dress, and could not recognise a surplice. I pointed out that the Subject was called "Christianity as a World Religion"*; asked whether the Board expected candidates to know every vestment used in every Church or Ecclesial Body ... the Byzantine epigonation .... the Lutheran ruff ... ; and suggested that, if they didn't, they should rename their subject as "Middle-of-the-road Anglican Tat".

After this, I and some other Public School Heads of Theology had a meeting with the Board. We were told to calm down and remember that the Board had to take account of the fact that in most schools, Religious studies was provided for by dragging off the games field any 'teacher' who had a gap in their time table. I gave up offering the GCSE, and we just concentrated on the A level which, pre2001, was still examined by people who knew something.

___________________________________________________________________

* Strange, this. Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, were not described as " ... as a World Religion". Not strange ... what this really meant was "There's no suggestion anybody might believe it".

20 March 2011

The Cult of the Blessed Sacrament (1)

It must be allowed that during the whole middle ages ... the Blessed Sacrament reserved was commonly treated with a kind of indifference which at present would be considered to be of the nature of 'irreverence', I will not say indignity.

Thus wrote that Prince of Liturgists, the lay Roman Catholic Edmund Bishop. Dix, also, observed that, in the first millennium, he could recall no instance recorded of a Christian praying in the conscious awareness of the Sacrament Reserved. I propose to devote one post to explaing why that is; and another to looking at the 'Eucharistic Revolution' of the fourteenth century.

We all know that Reservation for Communion is very ancient. But an examination of the liturgical formulae used to bless the vessels used for this reveals a surprising understanding of them. "God grant that this vessel be sanctified and made by the grace of the Holy Spirit a new sepulchre for the Body of Christ". "God, who for three days and nights didst lie in the sepulchre ..." And when Archbishop Hubert Walter was buried at Canterbury in 1205, they interred with him a chalice engraved with this couplet:
Ara crucis, tumulique calix, lapidisque patena;
Sindonis officium candida byssus habet.
[The Altar has the job of the cross; and the chalice, of the tomb, and the paten, of the stone; and bright linen has the job of the shroud.
]

Note that the thinking here is entirely of the Body of Christ as His dead Body. And surviving artefacts make it clear that such vessels were constructed in the shape of a tower in order to resemble what the Sepulchre of Christ in Jerusalem was believed to look like. Perhaps the practice in some places of reserving the Sacrament underneath the altar-tomb implied the same idea. Such an understanding could easily assimilate the Sacrament to the status of a Relic. Thus an Anglo-Saxon Council of 816 even reassures the faithful that, if a church is not fortunate enough to have relics, the Reserved Sacrament will be good enough on its own!
To continue.

19 March 2011

Geza Again

So Geza Vermes has written a predictable review of Professor Ratzinger's volume II ... how terribly predictable. Predictably, it's in the Grauniad. A collaboration between mutually back-scratching and predictable has-beens. It will be much more interesting if Jacob Neusner [corrected spelling], an American Jewish scholar of immensely greater stature, first century rabbinic knowledge, and conceptual sophistication, than Vermes, does a review. If anyone notices or spots such a review, I will be very glad to be pointed to it. [UPDATE: The thread directs you to a succinct explanation - and endorsement - by Neusner of what the Holy Father is doing. Told you. Thanks.]

Monsignora??

It is well-known that Elizabeth Tudor had a strong prejudice against married clergy: which is why the Lords Spiritual in her parliaments had wives who, unlike the wives of her Lords Temporal, did not share in their husbands' dignity. Poor Mrs Parker. Well, up to a point.

But the Catholic Church has no history of such misogyny. So will the wives of the new batch of Monsignori be Monsignore? Mesignore? Medonne? ... er ... help ... or what about the good old Benedictine style Dame??

Busyness - holy

Any who were interested by my recent post on this subject will find a superb example of the phenomenon in the Transalpine Redemptorists' blog ... in their Life of S Clement Mary Hofbauer.

18 March 2011

Advice to a new Protonotary Apostolic

As soon as you've unravelled all the complicated mystery
About what the Holy Office does, the Rota, the Consistory;
When you've studied more theology, and don't get quite so drowsy on
Attending learned lectures which discuss the Homoousion;
When you've somehow put behind you (with your poor command of French) a list
Of authors whose philosophy is known as Existentialist -
When your learning on a multitude of themes is less bucolic -
There's ne'er a Protonotary will be so Apostolic.

Acknowledgements not so much to Gilbert's and Sullivan's Modern Major General as to an earlier ex-Anglican Apostolic Protonotary who would have rejoiced to see the day of the Ordinariate.

17 March 2011

S Patrick's Day

As I looked at the latest revision of the bumf for the meetings at Allen Hall, I spotted a proposal for a clergy-and-families Mass and lunch. I mentioned this to Pam, who of course instantly gave me a crisp and accurate wifely definition of our joint attitude to the idea of struggling into London in early May for a clerical bunfight.

She went on, as wives so commonly do, to make a very good point. "Why couldn't they have organised an Ordinariate outing to the Cheltenham Races?" Why, indeed. After all, we are supposed, are we not, to be turning into proper Catholics? And is it, or is it not, true that proper Catholic clergy spend at Race Meetings all the time they can salvage from golf and cards? What better Formation could there have been for our new life than spending S Patrick's day imbibing the pure Spirit of Catholicity among the clergy of the Archdiocese of Dublin as they wager their meagre stipends on the Cheltenham horseflesh? The Ordinary himself could have tested the intercessory powers of our Lady of Walsingham and Bl John Henry Newman by betting the entire combined financial resources of the Ordinariate on a promising outsider.

Not that it would be a patch on watching the horses kicking up the sand as they race along the strand at Cahirciveen, with Ballicarbery Castle as the backdrop, in the knowledge that the lobsters are queuing up to jump into the saucepan at the Smugglers. How I do miss Ireland. Well, not Ireland so much as County Kerry. Well, not so much Co Kerry as the Iveragh peninsular. I wonder if Bill Murphy has any empty presbyteries. Sancte Patrici, Sancte Brendane, orate pro nobis.

16 March 2011

Thanks

I am grateful for all the comments - unfavourable as well as favourable - appended to my series on Councils. Although it was my intention to follow closely the trajectory of thought on this subject in the writings of Joseph Ratzinger - which I have been avidly reading for at least two decades - I am of course neither a theologian nor a historian; when I intrude into these fields I welcome corrections from those more competent than I am. I reiterate that I subscribe to everything defined by Councils and Roman Pontiffs, and submit with religiosum obsequium to their juridical enactments and regard with appropriate deference even their comments obiter.

Pastor in Valle added a very interesting piece on this subject to his own blog. Since he is a Church Historian, his piece is probably distinctly more worth reading than mine. And, who knows, by the time I have finished my 'Formation' at Allen Hall, perhaps I will know better!

15 March 2011

shome mishtake shurely ..

... on the internet; where there are pictures of the two rather different churches in England allegedly respectively on offer

(i) to Fr Wach and the blue birettas; and

(ii) to Fr Newton and the black birettas.

But the answer immediately strikes me: a property in central London must be quite valuable; the Ordinariate could flog it to a developer and use the money to get something better. I somehow feel that it may not have listed status.

12 March 2011

The suppression of the Chantries

Some time ago we took buses to Shipton-under-Wychwood (don't we have entrancing place-names in England?) and did a walk in the valley of the Evenlode (and beautiful river names?). In Shipton church is a palimpsest brass (the search engine should enable you to find my account of the palimpsest brass at Waterperry).

The 'front' bears an inscription about a woman who died in 1548. Interestingly, it bears no hint of expectation that it might be appropriate to pray for the repose of her soul. This calls for explanation: out in the Oxfordshire backwoods where in 1549 the people rose against the Prayer Book, you don't expect to find evidence of a Protestantism which by then had made little progress beyond some very small areas in the East of England. But the inscription cheerfully assured us that her virtues and her virtuous deeds had undoubtedly brought her straight to heaven.

You don't need to remind me that this assumption is not quite what poor dear Brother Luther thought he meant when he was plugging Justification By Faith Alone. But it is in line with the tens of thousands of funerary inscriptions dating from the ensuing Protestant centuries, postulating certain and immediate sainthood for every deceased person on account of their unbelievably virtuous lives (there is the old story about a little girl who read the gravestones in a churchyard and asked "Mummy, where are all the bad people buried?"). I wonder if anyone has ever written an interpretative account of how the academic doctrinaire Protestantism of Luther and Calvin led with such immediate and apparently automatic ease to its precise and polar opposite, a practical popular Pelagianism.

I do have a theory about this. It is that it was precisely the much-derided 'chantry' system, with its financial link between clergy remuneration and masses for the welfare of the souls of the Faithful Departed, which de facto reminded common unacademic medievals that we are all sinners who depend upon God's gracious mercy for our salvation. De facto, take that away and common unacademic folk, needing to fill a conceptual vacuum, will replace it in their own minds with the assumption that since the recently departed Mary Smith doesn't need masses said for her soul - the government has just declared this and has sequestrated all the assets of all the chantries - ergo if we love Ms Smith we need to be convinced that her good deeds outweigh any sins. It becomes psychologically important to shy away in our minds from the disturbing consequence that, if this is not so, then she is, er, in Hell. Moreover, if there is no Purgatory, then she is already in Heaven ... or Hell. So I see the paradoxical emphasis in popular Protestantism upon salvation by works (which is ultimately to feed into a facile Universalism which assumes that everybody except probably for Adolf Hitler and Myra Hindley will end up Saved), as emerging from a mass crisis of popular rethinking about soteriology and the Departed in 1548.

On the back of the brass, in the reused original dating from 1492, we have a potent reminder of the complex and deeprooted system which was destroyed by the suppression of the chantries. It is an account of bequests to the Guild of our Lady in Aylesbury for Masses and Dirges. Presumably it came on to the market in the despoliations which followed the suppression of the chantries (statute of December 1547). It reminded me of the manuscript* description of endowments made by Sir John Percival, Lord Mayor of London in the reign of the first Tudor, which hung by his tomb in the London City church of S Mary Woolnoth; presumably such public declarations were at least partly intended to ensure the compliance of future generations in fulfilling the dispositions.

___________________________________________________________________

*Recently rediscovered at the back of a cupboard in S Mary Woolnoth; the interested can find an account in a piece I published in 2007 in the Transactions of the Devonshire Association (they might also reread Duffy Stripping pp 515ff.). Sir John's document survived because, amid all the provisions for masses for his soul, which will have become obsolete in 1548, there were a few other provisions for benefactions which did not thus become obsolete. A later hand has marked these surviving provisions with an arrow in the margin.

11 March 2011

Revolution

An interesting paper in the new number of The Coat of Arms; by Mr Richmond (or, if you prefer, Clive Cheeseman ... Let the Reader Understand) arguing that at the Renaissance it became fashionable in certain elite intellectual circles to look down a faintly snooty nose at the old inherited conventions of Heraldry, in favour of symbolic pictures (imprese; or emblems) which could better express a man's "personal values, virtues, and ambitions".

Mr Richmond thus quotes Camden (1605): Queen Mary when she was a princesse, used both a red and white Rose, and a Pomegranate knit together to show her descent from Lancaster, Yorke, and Spaine. When she came to the kingdom, by perswasion of the Clergie, shee bare winged Time drawing Truth out of a Pit, with VERITAS TEMPORIS FILIA.

Two points: firstly, this reminds me rather of the talking-to she received early in her reign from Cardinal Pole, who pointed out to her that she ought not to use even merely conventional expressions of filial esteem when speaking of the King her Father, the adulterous schismatic Henry Tudor. By using this impresa she did indeed distance herself from the culture of her father.

Secondly: this Renaissance affectation marked her reign out as a fresh turning point with a new, reformed, stream-lined counter-Reformation Catholicism. This is the point Duffy makes in his revisionist account of Marian England as an experimental laboratory for so many of the features of (what was to become) Tridentine Catholicism.

You don't need to remind me that neither badges nor coats of arms were in fact discarded in the reign of Good King Philip and Good Queen Mary. The impaled arms of Spain and England were prominent enough on their coinage. I am wondering if anybody can give evidence to substantiate the claim Camden makes. It would be interesting to know how true it is, and in what contexts Mary may have employed this new, fashionable device.

_________________________________________________________________

I have been interested in this area of study since I was able to demonstrate (Transactions of the Dumfriesshire ... , 1993) that the previously unidentified sculptures at the Scottish castle of the recusant Maxwell family, carved in the 1630s, were taken, some (via the Emblemes of Quarles, 1635) from a Jesuit book (Typus Mundi) printed in Antwerp in 1627, and some from Andrea Alciato's best seller of 1531. Caerlaverock, by the way, is a truly lovely spot.

10 March 2011

Holy Busyness

Fr Colin Stephenson, Vicar of S Mary Mags, Oxford, during its Catholic heyday, recalls someone saying to him:
"I shall never forget the first time I went into S Mary Magdalen's, there were two priests hearing confessions, a Mass was being said at one of the altars, and there was Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in the Lady Chapel".

I remember analogous remarks being made about the scenes in Alyoggers, the Oxford Oratory, during the Visit there last year of the Relic of S Therese. They call to my mind the scene described by Newman towards the end of Loss and Gain: "There were side-altars - perhaps half a dozen; most of them without lights, but even here solitary worshippers might be seen. Over one was a large Crucifix with a lamp, and this had a succession of visitors. They came for five minutes, said some prayers which were attached in a glazed frame to the rail, and passed away. At another ... over it was an image. On looking attentively, Charles made out at last that it was an image of our Lady, and the Child held out a Rosary. Here a congregation had already assembled, or rather was in the middle of some service ... Reding turned his eyes elsewhere. They fell first on one, then on another confessional, round each of which was a little crowd , kneeling, waiting every one his own turn ... the men on one side, the women on the other ... the growing object of attention at present was the High Altar [which was being prepared for Benediction]... "

Come to think of it; isn't this a bit like a Greek church with members of the congregation sauntering around to their favourite ikons? The one I used to attend in the Camberwell New Road seemed, whenever I peeped out from behind the iconostasis, terribly 'busy'.

I think busyness attracts; is 'evangelical'. Not least because it helps the random visitor to feel un-self-conscious.

9 March 2011

The Simple Joys of Stereotypicality

One of the great shames of our drab age is that so few people any longer match up to their old group-stereotypes. Scotsmen are nowadays so very rarely mean. Frenchmen, lamentably, seem no more amorous than Germans. Swedes are invariably stunted, plump, and swarthy. But one human subgroup bucks this sad trend by its gutsy determination to justify its cartoon image: lawyers, with their age-old reputation for avarice.

As you will remember, a curious suggestion started to circulate that clergy joining the Ordinariate should resign their Orders. This has never been suggested previously to clergy leaving the C of E for another communion, so I suspected that it must have something to do with the new Clergy Discipline Measure. Apparently, it doesn't. I have been reading the document now circulated by the Church lawyers; they make no claim that their proposal results from any change in the law.

These lawyers are obviously sensitive chappies, for they have now grasped the possibility that a priest who is cluttered up with wives and children and isn't yet quite sure where his next bed and pay cheque are coming from might be less than enthusiastic about finding lawyers' fees for a legal transaction which encumbers him with no manifest advantage. So they are now recommending to the dioceses that they should meet the fees inherent in this jolly little earner! Sheer magic! You couldn't have invented that, could you?

It will be diverting to see if any of the Anglican diocesans do fall for this delightful con. If so, I imagine that the Nigerian Widows, who so often crowd into our Spam email boxes with their endless offers of trouble-free dosh, will soon be queueing up too for a share in this evidently boundless episcopal largesse. Con-artists of the World Unite ...

8 March 2011

Noah ... or Noe ...

An acute correspondent asks why Noe does not appear, together with Abel, Abraham, and Melkizedek, in the Supra quae of the Canon Romanus. This is all the more pertinent a question since Noe does appear, with the others, in the Apostolic Constitutions and in the Liturgies of S Basil and of S James.

I don't have a cut-and-dried answer to this - perhaps correspondents will have contributions - but my suspicion is as follows. The other three have a very much stronger symbolic or typological relationship with Christ and with his Sacrifice. Abel, dikaios like Christ, was a Shepherd and offered, let us say, a Lamb. Abraham, our Father by virtue of his and our Faith, offered on Mount Moriah (which was to be the Temple mount and the place of Christ's Sacrifice) a sacrifice which was in a sense the offering of his Son but was offered per modum of a ... grown-up lamb. Melkizedek offered Bread and Wine, suggestive of the Eucharist ... and the Writer ad Hebraeos gives further reasons for linking Melkizedek typologically with Christ.

I expect there is some important factor which I have missed ...??

6 March 2011

Viva! Viva! Gesu

I really felt unusually affected at Mass this morning. Three hymns: Praise to the Holiest ..., which Pam and I had at our Wedding: suitable also because in 1828 Mr Newman contributed to raising the floor-level of S Thomas's above the flood-level of the Thames - and his scout John Hayworth was a life-long worshipper at S Thomas's. And Sweet Sacrament Divine. And, at the end, Glory be to Jesus. I had that at my Licensing to S Thomas's, unaware as I made the choice that it is painted on the roof-beams of the church ... so that it was presumably a favourite hymn of the great Canon Thomas Chamberlain, who made the church the first parish church in which the ideals of the Oxford Movement were given practical expression. Lift ye then your voices; Swell the mighty flood: Louder still and louder Praise the precious Blood.

After the Angelus, we polished off a quick Vestry Meeting before the Churchwardens, staves in their hands, led us to the Shrine of S Thomas for the devotions traditional on festivals of S Thomas. These end with the Antiphon ad Magnificat in the Sarum Breviary: Salve, Thoma, virga justitiae, mundi jubar, robur Ecclesiae, plebis amor, cleri deliciae: Salve, gregis tutor egregie; salva tuae gaudentes gloriae. Then, in what I found a most moving gesture, the Churchwardens laid down their staves of office and left them at the feet of S Thomas.

In my view, Churchwardens are a crucial element in the Anglican Patrimony, inherited from a medieval Church in which each of the innumerable guilds had its own Wardens, all under the ultimate control of the "High Wardens". As an indication of lay dignity and of the intricate corporate communal life of a medieval parish, they should be one of our most important contributions to the Wider Church.

Grace and life eternal In that Blood I find; Blest be His compassion, Infinitely kind. Deo gratias.

A FINAL sermon extract

Quinquagesima
Today we join in spirit the Christian people of sixth century Rome on a corporate visit to the Basilica of S Peter in Vaticano; to the church where, in the 1960s, the bones of a big and strong old man were found buried beneath a simple second century aedicula covered with Christian graffiti - some invoking S Peter. It is a church built over the Kephas, over the Petra, over the Rock.

Only a generation or so after S Peter's own martyrdom, an Eastern bishop came journeying to Rome; his name was Ignatius. He came as a pilgrim, but as a pilgrim in chains. He was being sent under guard to Rome to be made a martyr. On his way to Rome, he sent letters to the ccongregations he was passing; letters in which, time after time, he emphasised Unity. He urged them, always, to be united around their bishop. He reminded them that, in their local church, the bishop was always and essentially the centre of unity. Frankly, he says this so often that his letters can even become a trifle repetitively boring.

But, as S Ignatius approached Rome, he writes, to the Roman Church, quite a different sort of letter. It was brilliantly analysed back in the 1940s by one of our greatest Anglican Catholic theologians, Dom Gregory Dix. Dix pointed out something odd about it. In his letter to the Roman Church, S Ignatius uses a lot of the same words that he had used in his other letters to the other churches. But now he applies those words differently. If, in the earlier letters, he had used a particular word to refer to the Bishop as the centre of Unity for the Local Church, in his letter to the Roman Christians Ignatius now uses that same word to refer to ... the Roman Church. So that, if he had, earlier, called a local bishop prokathemenos in relation to his Local Church, he now calls the Roman Church prokathemene in relation to the Universal Church. And so on. In other words, in the Local Church, the Bishop is the centre and focus of Unity; in the Universal Church, Rome is the centre and focus of Unity. Dix writes: "Rome stands for ecumenical Unity ... Rome fulfills by its leadership precisely that function towards the Universal Church which the Bishop fulfills towards the Local Church".

Today, carried in spirit by the readings and prayers of today's liturgy, we have journeyed out of the gates of Rome, up the Vatican hill, panting, perhaps, as we climbed it, to the bones of S Peter, to the Rock to whom the Lord said "Upon this Rock I will build my Church". For two millennia, Christians have followed S Ignatius to Rome ... to see the sights, to pray at the tombs of the Apostles and Martyrs; but above all, above everything else, they have gone there to listen; to listen to the voice of the Apostle Peter; to hear the Word of God.

5 March 2011

FESTUM OVORUM

Well, that's how they describe the Saturday before Quinquagesima year by year in the very inferior-quality modern Oxford University Diary with its cheapo imitation-leather cover which - since the University Diary starts with the last week of August - is already looking rather tatty by now.

The origin and purpose of Festum Ovorum is pretty certainly exactly what each one of you will have guessed from first principles: as on Shrove Tuesday, to have a binge before Lent. It has stayed on the University Calendar since the Middle Ages ... just as All Soul's Day and Corpus Christi and the Assumption survived the 'Reformation'. We know that this was not just a custom in alma academia but throughout the neighbouring country areas, where, in their illiterate vernacular way, the yokels just called it Egge Satterday. However, purely by coincidence, it became, in this University, linked with an academic deadline: the last day on which bachelors were allowed to 'determine'; that is, to complete the exercises for the degree of MA. And academics had a 'Determination Feast' to celebrate this, which goes back at least to the time of Lord Richard Holland (nephew of Richard II) who had his Determination Feast on the 21st and 22nd of February, 1395 (yes, I have checked that in Cheney). As late as 1603, "all the bachelors that were presented to determine did after their presentation go to every college where they were determining and there make a feast for the senior bachelors, videlicet, of muscadine and eggs; figs; raisons; almonds; sack; and such like".

I suppose all this was quite a luxury spread in those days. Now we could buy most of it in Sainsbury's and carry it home in those little orange bags. Except for the muscadines, which (look it up in the OED if you don't believe me) are sweetmeats (North Americans might say 'candies') made from a pod near the fundament (check that as well, if you like, in the OED) of an asiatic deer (its secretion may have been a sexual attractant) and regarded as an aphrodisiac since the trade routes brought it, and its Sanskrit name, from India to Byzantiuum. It is now vastly expensive since the poor things have been hunted nearly to extinction - ah, the compulsions of homo sapiens, the so-called animal rationale. But I gather that chemists produce a synthetic version, probably as inauthentic as the 'leather' covers of the University Diary. The English sweetmeats made from musk were called 'kissing cakes' or ... um .... er ... 'rising cakes' ... I bet the synthetic musk has less potent Rising Qualities than the Real Thing.

It's all in the mind, you know.

3 March 2011

More EXTRACTS from more SERMONS

Sexagesima Last Sunday, Septuagesima, we followed the clergy and people of Rome as they trudged to outside the distant East gate of the City to the Basilica of S Lawrence; today we go with them to the South gate, to the Basilica of S Paul ... whose missionary tribulations he enumerated for us himself in today's Epistle reading from I Corinthians.

I find a particular phrase in that reading rather significant: "the care of all the Churches". S Paul wrote of the Churches in the plural - as he did in all - no, nearly all of his letters. But in a couple of late Epistles, Colossians and Ephesians, we find him talking of the Church in the singular. And, just as in his earlier years he had been concerned with the Unity of the Local Church, so now he shows an acute interest in the Unity of the Universal Church. The Universal Church is no mere federation of all the Local Churches; it is the one Body of Christ. Just as, earlier, he had written to the Corinthians rebuking them for talking as if they were "Paul's Group" or "Apollos'Group" or "Peter's Group" or "Christ's Group", now he is concerned for a wider unity in the Universal Church; a unity between Christians of Jewish and of Gentile background and culture.

The message of S Paul is as relevant today as it was when he told the Corinthian Christians "Christ is not divided". The Church is Christ's Body; Christ's Body is not divided; Christ's Body cannot be divided. It is easy for us to think of Christian Unity as a very good thing; as something, for example, which would mightily assist in Mission. But we need to take a leaf out of S Paul's book. Christian Unity is not just something which would be highly convenient; something which would be jolly, jolly, useful. Being united is not something which we need for lots and lots of very important reasons.

Things are exactly the other way round.

Christians are not entitled to be disunited.

_________________________________________________________________

Quinquagesima sermon follows on Sunday.

2 March 2011

SERMONS

Extracts from sermons preached at S Thomas's on the Gesima Sundays this year.

Septuagesima These Gesima Sundays came to England in the baggage of an Italian monk; S Augustine carted them to England in his baggage train. As his monks and his mules struggled through Gaul, they were laden with chalices, vestments, and ... books; including the Altar Books of the Roman Rite, containing as they did the Gesima Sundays which S Gregory the Great had but recently invented. In his little church in Canterbury, S Augustine got them all out and put them to use. Canterbury thus became a decidedly odd place; a far Northern oasis of distinctively Roman Christianity at a time when most of Italy and Gaul used un-Roman forms of worship (a fact which had rather shocked S Augustine, a simple Urban lad, when he discovered it during his journey). So: from the very first, the infant Church of England observed these three pre-Lenten Sundays on which the Bishop, Clergy, and people of Rome met for worship, in turn, in each of the three great basilicas of the three great patron Saints of the City, outside the gates and above the burial places respectively of S Lawrence, S Paul, and S Peter.

And even after the Reformation, the Church of England Prayer Book kept the old Roman readings for these Sundays, reminding generation after generation of Anglican worshippers that the ancient roots of our beloved Church of England and of her worship lie deep in the soil of Rome.
Sexagesima follows.

1 March 2011

S David

A great Saint, a great Feast, a great Nation. But S David's day for me will always recall one particular March 1 at Lancing, when my colleague and brother priest lost - happily, only temporarily - the power of utterance.

We had at Lancing a daily Mass, attended on a voluntary basis by anything between half-a-dozen and thirty masters and pupils. We also had a Welsh Methodist Second Master whose innate enthusiasm for everything that went on in Chapel was ... limited. One S David's Day, wearing his daffodil, he was loudly complaining in Common Room about the fact that, in his words, S David's Day had been totally ignored as far as Chapel was concerned. Of course, that 'fact' was no fact; the day hadn't been ignored at all; two chaplains and more than twenty laity had gathered for Mass, had honoured S David, and had prayed for the Principality.

My normally gentle and mild-mannered colleague was rendered wordless with fury. As he said to me when he had recovered the faculty of speech, "Whatever does the bl**dy man think we were doing in Chapel this morning before breakfast ... when he wasn't there?"

But I doubt if it had ever occured to 'Taffy', as the boys used to call the poor old thing, that S David was not an anti-sacramental Methodist minister* but a Catholic priest who offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

_______________________________________________________________

*I am not implying that all Methodists are anti-sacramental, or prejudiced against the Catholic Faith. I know a very distinguished Methodist who isn't. But many of us have met one or two who are.